Is 2 Corinthians a single letter, or a composite of fragments? Does it have a single setting, or do its parts address successive stages in a developing crisis? This is perennial set of questions about this Pauline letter.
In this provocative study, Christopher D. Land steps back from the details that dominate most discussions of integrity. He analyses 2 Corinthians using a theoretically motivated procedure, avoiding the cherry-picking that plagues so many language-related arguments. Then, drawing upon this analysis, he segments 2 Corinthians into five parts.
Examining the sorts of meanings employed in each segment, Land asks what is being talked about, what is being done, and who is taking part. He distinguishes between the settings in which texts are produced and the situations construed by their language, and he affirms both the conventional nature of intra-textual variation and the principle that coherent texts construe coherent situations. In the end, Land argues that 2 Corinthians has the general appearance of being a single text, and that its specifics ought to be re-examined accordingly.
Irrespective of linguistics and literary integrity, scholars of all persuasions will be interested in the specifics. Among other things, Land argues that there is no single ‘offender’ underlying Paul’s remarks in chaps. 2 and 7, but a plurality of misbehaving church members. Paul has been accused of holding the church responsible for problems caused by his prolonged absence; and other Christian missionaries are stoking the church’s discontent, criticizing Paul’s ineffectual leadership and advancing their own as superior. To confront this crisis, Paul must simultaneously placate his readers, reiterate his demand that they care for themselves in his absence, and persuade them not to abandon him for ‘stronger’ leadership.